How to Set SANE Goals


Jonathan: Hey, everybody. Jonathan Bailor and Carrie Brown back with another Calorie Myth and Smarter Science of Slim show. Carrie, how are you today?

Carrie: I’m doing great, Jonathan. How are you?

Jonathan: I’m doing very well, Carrie, because today we are going to talk about one of my favorite topics, and that is goals and goal setting and how to achieve one’s goals and set expectations accordingly.

Carrie: Awesome.

Jonathan: The reason I wanted to chat about this, Carrie, is when it comes to eating and exercise, they’re both incredibly goal-specific. I’ll use exercise as an example because it’s the most obvious. If you want to, for example, become a great triathlete, what you would do would be very different from an exercise perspective. And if you wanted to become a great golfer, which would of course be something different than if you wanted to be a professional power-lifter, which would of course be something different if you just wanted to, let’s say, shrink your waist 4 inches.

Carrie: That makes perfect sense.

Jonathan: When you understand the, let’s call it, divergence of those different goals, you could imagine that saying, “this is the best thing to do, this is how you should exercise” becomes very challenging because it’s a bit like telling a person “this is what you should wear all the time.”

Carrie: Yeah, that would be awesome.

Jonathan: Like, are you going to the beach? Are you going to a formal dinner? Are you…?

Carrie: Especially with your dress sense, sir, that would not go down well.

Jonathan: No, that’s totally fair but I think it’s worth calling that out, Carrie, because I wanted to give our listeners some concrete goals which – I’d recommend they pick them and prioritize them because not being very clear what our goals are is a bit like getting in your car and not knowing where you want to go. There is very little chance – I think in Alice in Wonderland, the Cheshire cat is talking to Alice and says to Alice, “Where do you want to go?” and Alice is like, “I don’t know.” And then – well, I just destroyed this story. Do you know the thing I’m talking about?

Carrie: I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Jonathan: All right, so that works really well. Anyway, so I have a goal of not doing that again in this podcast.

Carrie: That’s a fantastic goal, sir.

Jonathan: What I was trying to say was, if you don’t know where you want to go, it’s very, very difficult to get there.

Carrie: Very difficult. Everybody’s different. Everybody’s goal is different, so there cannot possibly be a one-size-fits-all prescription, as it were, if everybody’s trying to get to a different place.

Jonathan: I like to use an analogy of eyeglasses or contacts or anything along those lines because I also don’t want to make people feel like everything is completely customized and completely different for everyone. It’s somewhere in the middle where there are universal truths and there are principles, but how we apply them is individualized.

Carrie: Right.

Jonathan: Let me give you an example here, Carrie. I wear contacts/glasses. I have terrible vision.

Carrie: I never knew that.

Jonathan: For folks that understand prescription numbers, I’m negative seven in both eyes, which means I’m basically legally blind. Quite bad.

Carrie: I’m speechless.

Jonathan: Now you can see why I dress the way I dress because I can’t….

Carrie: I’m going to give you a break on the dress code, then.

Jonathan: Imagine, listeners, that Carrie came to see me – Carrie, you don’t wear glasses, correct? Or contacts or anything?

Carrie: Nothing.

Jonathan: Let’s say Carrie did start to have fuzzy vision. Her vision started getting a bit fuzzy and she said, “Jonathan, I can’t see. Can you help me see?” And I took my glasses off my face, handed them to Carrie, and said, “Carrie, put these on.” Chances are they would not only not help Carrie see better, but they may actually make her vision worse, and it’s not because my glasses are bad or wrong, and it doesn’t mean there aren’t any eyeglasses in the world that will help Carrie see better. It just means the prescription that helps me achieve my goals is probably not the exact same as the prescription that’s going to help Carrie achieve her goals. Carrie, does that make sense?

Carrie: It makes perfect sense. I love that.

Jonathan: That said, all optometrists know that every human eye works basically the same way, and the way every pair of eyeglasses works, they work for the same reason. It’s just that there’s a different application. The same thing applies to eating and exercise. That’s why I think in a future podcast, Carrie, we’re going to cover certain “diets.” What we talk about isn’t a diet because what it is – it’s that set of principles. I’m saying, “Here’s how your eyes work.” Hypothetically, you can create your own perfect prescription.

Carrie: I love that.

Jonathan: Does that make sense?

Carrie: I love that.

Jonathan: Is that better than my Cheshire cat devastation?

Carrie: Yes. Ten out of ten, sir.

Jonathan: Ten out of ten.

Carrie: I’m still reeling from the “I’m blind” comment.

Jonathan: Folks, let me just give you one concrete example of how important it is to understand this. There are universal principles but personalized application is critical. This is what – 90 percent of men who want to get bigger muscles – here’s the most common approach to doing that. They walk into a gym or they find a friend who has what they want and they say, “Hey, big bulky guy at the gym, what do you do to work out?” Let’s break down why that doesn’t work. First of all, what a person who is already at a certain point does to stay at that point or to progress even further is dramatically different than what someone who is just starting out would need to do. Further, maybe that person who is big and bulky and muscular was big and bulky and muscular before they even stepped foot into a gym.

Carrie: Maybe they were born that way.

Jonathan: Exactly. Just like if you ask Usain Bolt, who is the fastest person who ever lived ever, “Usain, what do you do to get so fast?” Certainly he’ll have a pretty rigorous training regimen, but to think that if you did that, you would get the same results Usain Bolt did, and if you didn’t, it’s because you didn’t try hard enough – that’s a very dangerous mindset to have.

Carrie: You might get there, but it would be because you were born with whatever the same characteristics that Mr. Bolt has.

Jonathan: That’s not to say – and this is not something that’s popular to say – I don’t know if it’s this way in Britain, Carrie – but in America especially, we give this message that anyone can do anything if they just try hard enough.

Carrie: No, we don’t say that.

Jonathan: Kudos to the Brits.

Carrie: That’s why I live here.

Jonathan: The reason I bring that up is while that is wonderful – that is a rah-rah excellent thing to say – I’m six feet tall. No matter how hard I try, I will never be six-five.

Carrie: Actually, I’m convinced that you’re taller today than you were the other day when we recorded or I’m shorter or something.

Jonathan: The reason I say this, though, Carrie – that height example I just gave, I gave intentionally because there is nothing I can do, no matter how hard I try, to become six-five. I can’t do that. It’s not possible. I should just pay someone more money to engineer some pill for me or to train me to be taller. The reason it’s important, Carrie, is we do need to know what Stephen Covey calls “our sphere of influence versus our sphere of concern” because there are things that we can worry about, and we can’t do anything about them, and there are things we can worry about, that it makes sense to worry about, because we can do something about them. It’s a bit like that Alcoholics Anonymous thing: Lord, give me the serenity to do what…

Carrie: …change the things I can and don’t worry about the things I can’t. I horribly made that up.

Jonathan: We’re all about paraphrasing – between Alice in Wonderland and Alcoholics Anonymous, they’re both going to call us and say, “Let us tell you what you should have said.” The point is, our body composition and our body structure is 45 to 75 percent genetically predetermined. It is strongly genetically predetermined. There are three basic body types – endomorph, which is a bit shorter and a bit broader; mesomorph, which is right in the middle; and ectomorph, which is a bit tall and lankier. The reason it’s really important to understand how big of a role genetics and your brain and other things that you can’t super-change have on your body composition is because it will allow you to not feel like a failure.

Carrie: So this is our podcast of hope.

Jonathan: This is our podcast of hope, absolutely, because if you think that if you just tried harder, you could be taller, you would be disappointed every second of every day for the rest of your life.

Carrie: That would be very sad.

Jonathan: Which is sadder – telling someone, “You can’t be taller but it’s okay because you are beautiful and brilliant at the height you’re currently at”? or “You can be taller, just try harder”? I know one seems – we’ve been told that telling people anything’s possible if you just try hard enough is a more positive message. But when you think about it, I think part of the reason so many of us are constantly in a state of being self-critical is because we see these individuals who are either genetically gifted or their entire life is spent on achieving some aesthetic ideal and then we’re like, “If we’d just tried harder, if we just did better, we could be like that.” But that’s like saying if you just tried harder, you could be as good of a golfer as Tiger Woods. A lot of people are trying to be as good a golfer as Tiger Woods and haven’t been successful at it, right?

Carrie: In a nutshell, this show is about being realistic.

Jonathan: It’s about being realistic and it’s about celebrating that which we do have.

Carrie: And the things that we can change.

Jonathan: Exactly. And focusing on the things that we can change. For example, you can absolutely change, for example, your triglyceride level or your waist circumference or how often you get sick or your general energy levels or the amount of sleep you get or how strong your muscles are or your stamina. These are all things you can change and you can change quite easily when you have those goals in mind.

Carrie: How exciting is that?

Jonathan: Does that help, Carrie? I know it was a little bit metaphysical there for a second, but if our goal is constantly just “look like model X” or “just get smaller, just get smaller,” it’s a bit like saying, “Until I’m as good of a basketball player as Michael Jordan and until I get taller, I’m going to be disappointed at myself.” It’s just not a great mindset to have.

Carrie: It really isn’t. It’s very demoralizing and it’s very disheartening, and I know there’s a whole load of people out there that feel that way, and I would love to think that we can say something on this show that helps them not do that anymore.

Jonathan: I think what we can say to help them not to do that is two things. Just to summarize what we just covered: You can absolutely change the way you look and you can absolutely change the way you feel, but the approach that’s going to get you there is going to be personalized based on the principles that we cover in this show. And it’s going to depend on certain things, some of which you have more control over than others. Shall we list those out?

Carrie: Yes, let’s do that.

Jonathan: First and foremost, your genetics play a gigantic role. This is why any time anyone asks me why I wrote The Calorie Myth and did all this stuff, I tell them that growing up, I was a naturally thin person, because I know what it feels like and I feel bad about it. And this is part of the reason I’m so committed to this mission now. I know what it’s like to eat till you’re not hungry, to eat sloppily. When I was 17, I didn’t eat the way I eat now. I ate garbage and I had a six-pack, so it’s very easy for people who have that genetic makeup to just say, “Why doesn’t everyone else just try harder?” But I know that I wasn’t slim because I was somehow moralistically superior or trying harder than anyone else; I was given fortunate genetics. It’s really important to call that out, though, because once you understand that it’s not like there’s something wrong with you, it’s just that you’ve been given a genetic set of cards and you can optimize how you play them, it really helps to [Inaudible 15:02] a little bit.

Carrie: I have a quick story here. I have a girlfriend who, years and years and years ago, I went with her with some other friends to a wedding dress fitting, and she’s there, trying all these dresses on. And she has the tiniest waist in the world, and she’s sitting there, and she’s got this dress on, and everyone’s oohing and aahing. And the lady who owned the store was saying, “Oh, look at that tiny waist.” The bride-to-be said, “I’ll have you know I’ve worked hard for that.” The rest of us just fell about laughing because it was all genetics. She was just born that way. She ate rubbish and didn’t exercise and still had this tiny waist. So, genetics is important.

Jonathan: It’s important and we get that. To be clear, Carrie, it’s not as if that means we’re predetermined and there’s nothing we can do. Here’s an example. Science has shown repeatedly that one of the things that humans perceive as beautiful in other humans is symmetry – facial symmetry. How symmetrical either side of your face is determines in large part whether or not other people find you attractive; not necessarily sexually attractive, but just like, “that’s a person who I enjoy looking at” versus “that’s one who I could take or leave.” How symmetrical your face is is genetically predetermined. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can do to make ourselves more or less attractive.

Carrie: Surgery.

Jonathan: Sure.

Carrie: That’s a bit of an expensive route to go but…

Jonathan: I think it’s interesting to know, Carrie, that we all get and understand that. For example, our facial structure is genetically predetermined – and that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless; we shouldn’t try. It just means we don’t say, “If I try harder, I, Jonathan Bailor, could look like the guy who plays Tim Riggins in Friday Night Lights,” who’s got to be one of the best looking dudes in Hollywood. That is a good-looking dude.

Carrie: I have no idea who you’re talking about but…

Jonathan: Do you know who Channing Tatum is? He’s another good-looking dude.

Carrie: No.

Jonathan: Okay, do you know who The Rock is?

Carrie: Ryan Gosling.

Jonathan: Oh, god, no. For example, so I don’t feel bad and I don’t feel like I should try harder to have a face like Ryan Gosling’s because I get that I can’t try harder to have Ryan Gosling’s face, but it doesn’t mean I can’t embrace my own face and make the most of it.

Carrie: But you also understand that there are limitations to what you can do that are no fault of your own because that’s how you were born. You get that and you accept it. When it’s your face, you accept that there are these in-built limitations which you were born with and you don’t get upset about it. But somehow, when it comes to the rest of our body, we get wildly upset when we don’t live up to these expectations that are actually completely unrealistic because we’re battling with genetics.

Jonathan: I love this example, Carrie, and I hadn’t thought about it until we talked right now because the thing I’m trying to balance between is, often times we hear two messages, one which is complete acceptance, just be completely happy with everything and that’s fine. And I personally don’t think that’s the right mindset because I think we should always be trying to improve ourselves. I think that’s the reason we’re put on this earth, to be the best version of ourselves. But then there’s this other end of the spectrum which is “you can do anything you want and be anything you want” and just like we said, you can’t have any face you want. You can’t.

Carrie: Taking positive thinking a step too far.

Jonathan: Exactly. So what we found is this awesome analogy which is think of your body just like you think about your face. The fact that you can’t make it into anything doesn’t mean you give up hope; it just means you embrace what you have and you accentuate it accordingly.

Carrie: And you accept that you’re still beautiful just the way you are.

Jonathan: Exactly. And you accept the fact that anyone who thinks otherwise is probably not someone you want to do business with, anyway. It’s like the old Dr. Seuss saying, “Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” I think that, just like in his other work, he’s a great modern philosopher. Dr. Seuss nailed it with that.

Carrie: Yes, love that. So let’s get realistic.

Jonathan: Let’s get realistic and let’s also understand that – I promised the listeners a couple of factors that will help to determine the types of results you can expect to have and how quickly they will come and the amount of effort you will need to put into achieving it. Remember when we say “effort,” it’s not about exercising more, it’s not about eating less; it’s in terms of how high-quality your eating will have to be and how high-quality your exercise will need to be. Some people might be able to get great results just slightly increasing the quality of their diet; some people might need to turn it up a little bit more, depending on these factors. Very quickly: how ambitious your goals are matters a lot. If you want to…

Carrie: ….look like Jonathan.

Jonathan: Sure. That’s not the example I would’ve used. If you want to, let’s say, see your abs or see definition in your stomach, that is a much different goal from “I don’t want to be obese anymore.” There’s going to be a big – just like if you wanted to be an Olympic athlete, the level of commitment needed versus “I’d like to be able to play in the backyard with my children” – very different, right?

Carrie: Yeah. Very, very different.

Jonathan: So just understand how ambitious your goals are and determine how much effort you’re going to need to put in. Makes sense.

How quickly you want to see results matters. If you want to see results faster, obviously you’re going to have to commit more.

How frequently and vigorously you’ve yo-yo dieted. The more times you’ve been told to starve yourself – and sadly, you had no choice, but you listened to that because that’s all you were ever told – it makes it harder. Consequently, if you’ve read The Calorie Myth, you know studies have shown every single time you weight-cycle, the next time you try to lose weight or try to burn fat, it’s going to become harder. Every time you starve yourself, you’re conditioning your body to hoard fat. We just have to keep that in mind.

This explains why in a lot of, for example, heterosexual couples, if the wife goes SANE, oftentimes her husband will accidentally go SANE and will start to lose a lot of fat without trying, and the wife gets frustrated. It’s totally because the husband has never tried to lose weight the wrong way before. It’s not that men are better than women or it’s easier for men to lose weight than women. It’s often that just men have frequently never yo-yo dieted before, at least contrasted to women, and so if they do, then change their eating habits, they see results much faster.

How old you are. Just like when it comes to repairing a bone or overcoming illness, as we get older, it takes a bit longer. When a six-year-old breaks his arm, it heals much faster than if a sixty-year-old breaks their arm. The same thing applies to a broken metabolism.

How healthy we are. We’ve covered this in other shows, but depending on pre-existing medical conditions like insulin resistance, diabetes, certain psychological challenges, and other types of stress-induced things, generally speaking, the more medication you’re on, the longer it’s going to take.

How stressed you are and how much sleep you get – more stress and less sleep – means it takes a longer time.

Finally, your parents – your genetics. If your parents are both slender and have been slender their entire life without really trying, it’s not going to be very hard for you to return to that state. But if your parents have struggled to maintain slimness their entire life, it’s going to be a bit more of a struggle for you as well.

Carrie: Got it.

Jonathan: Is that helpful? Just really quickly there, run through the list:

How ambitious your goals are.
Your timetable.
How much sleep you’re getting.
How much stress you’re getting.
Your age.
Pre-existing medical conditions.
Your parents.

I think that’s about it.

Carrie: And yo-yo dieting.

Jonathan: And then yo-yo dieting, yes. Ta-da!

Carrie: Yay! That’s a good list.

Jonathan: Is that a good list, Carrie?

Carrie: There’s lots of variables, and so you could mentally just add up the number of variables that apply to you from Jonathan’s list and that will help you to know where on the scale of length of time it may take to get you to the results that you want.

Jonathan: Hopefully this show will also help you to – if you do ask questions, for example, you can jump on our Facebook – there’s a Facebook group where folks ask and answer questions. For example, after listening to this show, hopefully you’ll know that, for example, asking a question such as ‘are sweet potatoes good for me?’ is in some ways not a relevant question. The more relevant question is “are sweet potatoes good for a 27-year-old CrossFitter who has this percentage of body fat, gets this much sleep, and has these goals?’ That’s a much, much different – just saying “for anonymous person X, is this food good?” with no knowledge of what is going on in an anonymous person X’s life or their goals, it’s very difficult to answer that question.

Carrie: Yes.

Jonathan: Let us close with the two key things we talked about today, Carrie. First and foremost is, I love the face analogy. Thinking about your body like you think about your face – which is just because genetics heavily is involved does not mean you should ever give up and it also means you shouldn’t feel bad every single day just because you can’t morph into something else.

Carrie: …into Ryan Gosling.

Jonathan: Exactly.

Carrie: Gosh, don’t us girls wish you men could all morph into Ryan Gosling.

Jonathan: Finally, back from our friend, good old Dr. Seuss, “Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” If you remember that, you’ll smile a lot more.

Carrie: I love that.

Jonathan: Excellent. Carrie, this week and every week after, let’s be sure to eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. We’ll chat with you soon.

Carrie: See ya.

Jonathan: Wait, wait! Don’t stop listening yet.

Carrie: You can get fabulous free SANE recipes over at CarrieBrown.com.

Jonathan: And don’t forget, your 100% free Eating and Exercise Quick Start Program as well as free fun daily tips delivered right into your inbox at BailorGroup.com.

This week we cover how to set motivational and attainable wellness goals.